36 min read

Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

Driving through Derby on a Friday evening isn’t something I do often, its normally Birmingham or Nottingham I get snarled up in, so it’s a breath of fresh air that sees me parking across from a window displaying several shiny Rolls Royce’s. Nothing surprises me as I wander to the venue, collect my pass (a smiley face stamp on my hand). The first band are just about to start so I stand at the back for a moment to get a feel for the room. There are five bands on tonight, culminating with the German Fantasy Power Metal band Victorius.

I’ve written them as individual gigs for that’s how they came across, each band worthy of their name being the Headline act. Hopefully it won’t be too disjointed. First up are:- Pagan Sword. But not before the Pirates in tonight have placed a pineapple between the monitors at the stage front, a symbol to the desecrated Sycamore gap maybe.

Pagan Sword’s recent opening set at the HAIRY DOG, Derby was nothing short of a sonic journey through Slavic folklore and metal mayhem. Traditional themes wrapped up in a growling metal vocal, set the scene for the night, despite Marek telling us that they were the heaviest band on the billing.

The night kicked off with a thunderous entrance as Andy Powroznik’s drums set the heartbeat for the evening. The combination of traditional Slavic melodies and the raw energy of metalcore resonated through the crowd, creating an atmosphere that was both primal and enchanting.

Matt Marek, the band’s lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, commanded the stage with a ferocity that mirrored the intensity of their music. His guttural growls and soaring clean vocals wove tales of Slavic mythology and history, transporting the audience to a realm of ancient battles and mystical landscapes.

Robert Hilton’s lead guitar work was nothing short of mesmerizing. His riffs, inspired by Slavic folk tunes, blended seamlessly with the aggression of metalcore, creating a sound that was both brutal and melodic. The interplay between Marek and Hilton on tracks like ‘Flameheart’ and ‘The Betrayer’ showcased the band’s musical prowess and ability to seamlessly fuse these two seemingly disparate genres.

The inclusion of a violin in a metal band might raise eyebrows, but James Waldron’s performance on the strings added a layer of depth and authenticity to Pagan Sword’s sound. Whether he was playing haunting melodies or shredding alongside Hilton’s guitar solos, Waldron’s presence was a testament to the band’s commitment to their Slavic roots.

Josh Thomas, a giant of a man, not unlike HODOR, played bass and provided the backbone of the band, his steady rhythm grounding the soaring melodies and thunderous drumming from Powroznik’s tireless energy. This relentless drumming and Thomas’s seismic bass lines created a powerful and driving force that propelled the music forward.

The setlist was a carefully curated journey through Pagan Sword’s discography, featuring tracks from their latest EP, ‘Enter the Mountain,’ and teasers from their upcoming release, ‘Flameheart.’ The crowd enjoyed the performance of ‘Serpent King,’ with its hypnotic rhythms and intense guitar work along with ‘White Beer’ whilst ‘Drinking Horn’ had the audience raising their own drinking horns in salute to the band’s celebration of Slavic drinking traditions.

As the night reached its climax, Pagan Sword delivered a rousing performance of ‘Hymn of Valour,’ previously released as a music video in 2022. Marek’s vocals soared above the intimate gathering, the collective energy of the band and audience created a set that was enjoyed both on and off the stage.

Pagan Sword’s opening set was a testament to their ability to blend cultural heritage with the raw energy of metal. The band’s fusion of Slavic folk music and metalcore not only pays homage to their roots but also creates a unique and captivating musical experience. With their upcoming EP, ‘Flameheart,’ on the horizon, it’s clear that Pagan Sword is not just a band; they’re a force to be reckoned with in the realm of Slavic-inspired metal. A great start to the night.

I stand there thinking, well if that’s an opener the nights going to be an absolute belter. I’m the first to put my hand up and say the entire night is a showcase of new bands for me, it’s gotten off to a great start as the second band, a Parody/Tribute if you will fill the stage with naked bodies and hair. I give you :- HanOwaR

‘In the realm of pure metal, where the thunderous beats of battle drums echo through the ages, HanOwaR emerged as the mightiest warriors, carrying the torch of steel that was once lit by legends ManOwaR’. I was about to witness their epic performance here, at the Hairy Dog in Derby—a night that will forever be etched in my annals of metal history.

Draped in vegan animal skin and pleather, HanOwaR take to the stage, a glorious sight that would make any metalhead’s heart pound with anticipation. The air crackled with the energy of a thousand steel blades as they raised their fists, saluting the crowd with the iconic sign of the hammer. The message was clear, a battle cry that resonated through the venue: “BRING BACK PURE METAL, BRING BACK PURE METAL.”

The line-up of this formidable band read like a roster of legendary warriors. Kieran ‘Power’ McCarthy, with his mohawk and studded wristband, stood tall as the vocal powerhouse. As he graced the stage, he humorously remarked on the crowd’s enthusiasm, stating, “It’s nice to come on stage to see a crowd, as we’re not very good.” Little did he know, the crowd was there for their raw, unadulterated theatrical power metal.

On lead and rhythm guitars, the duo of Dominic ‘Steel’ Weerdmeester and Alex ‘Mighty’ Wronski unleashed a torrent of riffs that cut through the air like sharpened blades. The bass guitar, wielded by Gerran ‘Glory’ Burnes, rumbled like the war drums of an approaching horde. Bill ‘Battle Hymns’ Jacob, the master of the drums of doom, provided the thunderous heartbeat that fuelled the warriors’ relentless assault. And let’s not forget Matthew ‘Hail and Kill’ Weerdmeester, the galloping horseman who not only provided heroic hype but also graced the stage with his bellowing vocals and warrior antics.

The set kicked off with the soaring anthem ‘MAN o War,’ a sonic charge that shook the very foundations of the venue. The crowd, already immersed in the fervour, erupted as they belted out the lyrics to ‘Hail and Kill.’ The stage presence of HanOwaR was nothing short of a theatrical spectacle—a grand tribute and parody to the bestial American band, ManOwaR. As a gesture of unity, Matthew ‘Hail and Kill’ Weedmeester, distributed swords to the audience, transforming the venue into a sea of raised blades, as they went into ‘Fight for World’ a triumphant volley in the name of pure metal, well ok slightly plastic swords.

Amidst the metallic onslaught, the ballad ‘Kings of Metal’ provided a brief respite, a majestic moment that showcased the band’s versatility. But the respite was short-lived, for they concluded the night with the magnum opus, ‘Battle Hymn.’ As the final chords reverberated through the venue, there were, alas, no sparklers or party poppers, but the sonic explosion was more than enough to leave the crowd in awe.

HanOwaR’s performance was not just a gig; it was a pilgrimage for metal enthusiasts—a testament to the enduring spirit of pure metal. The echoes of their battle cries still linger in the air, a reminder that the flame of steel burns eternal. As I headed to the bar for a diet coke, I couldn’t help but feel a renewed sense of allegiance to the cause—BRING BACK PURE METAL. The might of HanOwaR had left an indelible mark, and in that moment, we were all warriors in the grand tapestry of metal history.

Beaming at what I’d just witnessed, I managed to get to the bar for a drink, I needed something after that barbaric onslaught, my tipple, a diet coke in a Hairy Dog beaker, nice! I make my way back to my camera and note book just as the third band tonight venture forth, dressed as folk from a familiar fable Fellowship take up the gavel and continue the nights great line of music;-

‘In the mystical realms where the echoes of elven songs and the thunder of dwarven drums intertwine, FELLOWSHIP emerged, a band that wove together tales worthy of the greatest sagas. I recently found myself ensnared in their enchanting performance, a journey through Tolkien-esque landscapes, if you will, that unfolded at a venue that seemed to transcend the mundane—a gateway to Middle-earth itself, the HAIRY DOG, Derby.’

Led by the mesmerizing vocals of Matt Corry, Fellowship embarked on their sonic quest with ‘Glory Days.’ As Matt’s voice soared through the air, it was as if a minstrel from Gondor had come to life, singing of days long past and battles won. The crowd, a fellowship in their own right, swayed and sang along, creating an atmosphere that resonated with camaraderie.

Brad Wosko, the guitar wizard of the fellowship, conjured melodies that evoked the ancient melodies of Lothlórien. His fingers danced upon the strings, weaving a tapestry of sound that transported the audience to realms where elves and men stood side by side. Ed Munson, the steady hand on bass, anchored the performance with a rhythmic pulse reminiscent of the footsteps of the Ents themselves.

The drumming prowess of Callum Tuffen, adorned with a cowboy neckerchief as if a Rohirrim rider, thundered through the venue like the hooves of the Riders of Rohan. The rhythmic patterns were a heartbeat that echoed through the Misty Mountains, driving the fellowship forward on their musical quest.

‘Until the Fires Die’ followed, a haunting ballad that spoke of undying hope in the face of darkness. Matt’s vocals reached into the hearts of the audience, stirring emotions as if the very spirit of Frodo and Samwise journeyed with us. The crowd, caught in the spell, sang along, their voices blending into a chorus that echoed through the venue.

‘Scars and Shrapnel Wounds’ unfolded like a tragic tale from the Silmarillion, a narrative of sacrifice and resilience. The guitar riffs, laden with emotion, painted a vivid picture of a battle-worn hero facing the tides of war. The fellowship on stage and the fellowship in the crowd stood united in their shared experience, a bond forged through the alchemy of music.

‘Saint Beyond the River’ carried a sense of mystique, a musical expedition into the territories of Gondor and beyond. The bassline, like the rolling Anduin, carried the melody forward, while the drums echoed the footfalls of a lone ranger. Each note resonated with the spirit of Aragorn, a king in waiting, and the audience responded with a fervour that could have rivalled the Battle of Helm’s Deep.

As the set neared its conclusion, Fellowship cast their final enchantment with ‘Glint.’ The song shimmered with a celestial glow, like the light of Eärendil’s star in the night sky. Matt’s vocals reached celestial heights, and Brad’s guitar work felt like a spellbinding incantation. The crowd, now fully immersed in the fellowship’s magic, their heads nodding along with a passion that transcended the boundaries of mere fandom.

It was revealed during the performance that Fellowship had recently embarked on a journey to the distant shores of Japan, bringing their Tolkien-inspired tales to a new audience. The very thought of their melodies echoing across the ancient cherry blossoms and modern skyscrapers was enchanting.

The band, as Matt shared, is currently in the midst of crafting their first full-length album, a musical tome that promises to be a collection of epic tales. The process has been challenging, given the demands of their adventurous lives, but one could sense the anticipation in the air—an anticipation mirrored in the crowd’s eager cheers for a glimpse of the forthcoming musical saga.

As the final notes of ‘Glint’ faded into the ether, the fellowship took their bows, acknowledging the applause of the enchanted crowd. Fellowship had not just played a gig; they had orchestrated a journey through Tolkien’s realms, leaving the audience with a sense of wonder and a melody in their hearts—a melody that echoed the sentiment, “The road goes ever on and on.”

I’m shaking my head in disbelief, another stunning band and what a sensational vocal. The fourth band are quickly on and read to go, Warlock AD, the symphonic rock/fantasy ensemble hailing from Stoke on Trent, graced the stage at The Hairy Dog in Derby with a performance as unpredictable as a roll of the dice itself. The band, originally known simply as Warlock until the addition of ‘AD’ in 2020, boasts a repertoire of eight singles and their debut album, ‘BOOK 1: THE RESURRECTION,’ released in 2022. With a penchant for fantasy role-playing, the band members don theatrical names that seamlessly blend with their otherworldly theme.

The stage was alive as we were immersed in a journey through a fantastical realm. ‘Quinn Eilianther, The Crowned Elven Prince’, stood regally dressed as Prince Charming, complete with Elven ears peeking through flowing white hair as the heartbeat pulsed from the bass guitar held low. ‘Emperor Thorumm III’, though absent from the throne, made his presence felt with epic ‘Ghost drumming’. ‘Horatus the Mushroom Wizard’, clad in tie-dye and a perpetual smile, conjured mystical melodies on the guitar whilst ‘Whiteacre the Nomad’, the charismatic vocalist, not only led the night but also invited the audience to participate in the randomness of their set by tossing multi-sided dice at his, let’s say, ample rear end. The quintet being completed by ‘Ahriman Cullblade, The Shadow Assassin’, provided soaring lead guitar work on his axe hewn from the heart of a mystical tree.

The mystical journey commenced with a taped intro, setting the stage for the opening number, ‘The Valley of Vâgené.’ As the dice took its first spin, the crowd held its breath. A ‘3’ was rolled, and ‘Nanum Imperium’ unfolded, bringing a slight twist to the proceedings as ‘Whiteacre’ introduced their ‘Ghost Drummer.’ With the roll of a ‘9,’ a dramatic exchange ensued among the band members, interpreting it as an ominous number. However, the result was the energetic ‘Potion Seller,’ showcasing the band’s ability to seamlessly adapt to the whims of the dice.

‘Skyrimming’ and ‘ROTHGAR War Song’ followed in due course, each song unveiling a new facet of Warlock AD’s musical prowess. The set reached its climax with the anthemic ‘Geralt,’ leaving the crowd in a state of euphoria. The audience, much like myself, was left smiling and reminiscing about the unique experience that unfolded before us.

The genius of Warlock AD’s performance lies in the unpredictability driven by the roll of a dice. The set is a dynamic beast, taking the audience on a journey through a fantastical land that left me spellbound, albeit slightly confused about the intricate plot. In my bewilderment, I reached out to the band for clarification, and their response shed light on the method behind the madness.

The fusion of theatricality, fantasy, and musical talent makes Warlock AD a standout act in the symphonic rock scene. Their willingness to embrace randomness and engage the audience in their fantastical narrative sets them apart, creating an unforgettable live experience. As I reflect on the night, I find myself smiling at the sheer brilliance and unpredictability that Warlock AD brought to The Hairy Dog in Derby. It’s not just a concert; it’s a journey into the unknown, guided by the roll of the dice and the magic of their music. Well done, a great piece of theatre.

As I smile around the room, I’m thinking ‘this is what music is all about’ pleasure, enjoyment and discovery, I’m having a blast but it’s now time for the Headline Act, and the band a lot of guys are here to enjoy, the venue has slowly filled as the nights progressed

German power metal maestros, VICTORIUS, unleashed a sonic storm as they headlined at the HAIRY DOG, and the crowd were taken on an epic journey through Fantasy realms, Ninja battles, and the age of Dinosaurs. Currently on the road promoting their sixth studio album, ‘DINOSAUR WARFARE Pt2: The Great Ninja War,’ the band brought to life a spectacle that transcended mere musical performance, for a crowd only too willing to go along for the ride of a lifetime.

The stage was a battleground adorned with gold armour, each member proudly displaying the emblem of their dinosaur alter-ego. Franke Koppe, the rhythmic force behind the drum kit, transformed into ‘Pteranodon.’ Stage left, Flo, with his long hair, beard, and a seven-string guitar, embodied the ‘Laser Tooth Tiger.’ The bald-headed bass player, Andreas DockHorn, adopted the persona of the ‘Triceratops,’ while Dirk Scharsich on lead guitar and stage right was ‘Raptor.’ The charismatic frontman, David Baßin, wearing fancy shades, assumed the role of the mighty ‘T-Rex.’

The night kicked off with ‘Dinos and Dragons,’ setting the tone for the fantastical journey ahead. ‘Wrath of the Dragongod’ followed, with its thunderous riffs and soaring vocals, captivating the audience. The energy reached its peak during ‘Shuriken Showdown,’ where the interplay of guitars and drums mimicked the intensity of a ninja duel.

‘Katana Kingdom Rising’ showcased Flo’s prowess on the seven-string guitar, creating a sonic landscape that transported the audience to a mythical realm. The stage came alive with ‘Mighty Magic Mammoth,’ as the crowd was swept away by the majestic melodies and powerful rhythms.

As the night progressed, ‘Jurassic Jetfighters’ and ‘Dinosaur Warfare’ had the audience headbanging and fist-pumping in unison. The stage presence of each member, adorned in their dinosaur-inspired armour, added a visual spectacle to the auditory feast.

The tempo slowed down with ‘Night of the Nuclear Ninja,’ a haunting ballad that showcased the versatility of David Baßin’s vocals. ‘Victorious Dinogods’ and ‘Supersonic Samurai’ kept the momentum going, leading up to the explosive ‘Powerzoid,’ where the entire venue was engulfed in a sonic assault.

The setlist reached its climax with ‘Evil Wizard Wushu Master,’ a track that blended power metal with an Eastern flair. The night concluded with ‘Cosmic Space Commando Base,’ leaving the crowd in awe of Victorius’ musical prowess.

The lighting design was nothing short of spectacular, enhancing the atmosphere with a dazzling display of colours and effects. As the final notes resonated through the venue, the crowd, their fists pumping in unison, erupted in applause.

Victorius had not only conquered the stage but had taken their fans on an unforgettable journey through a musical landscape where fantasy, ninja battles, and dinosaurs collided in a triumphant display of power metal mastery. A great finish to a night of musical discovery.

The HAIRY DOG, hidden in the backstreets of Derby has yet again put on a great night of Rock to an intimate crowd. If you know you know as they say.

Oh, and as a side note, on the way back to my car I noted the Rolls Royce’s again, except this time I had my glasses on ‘They were Funeral Cars, it was an Undertakers’ I choked out loud as I got into my motor, at least there’s going to be no noise complaints from the neighbours..

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